Minnesotans are sharply split over the events in Washington on Jan. 6.
A new poll finds 46 percent of voters thought Jan. 6 was an insurrection, while 42 percent believe it was a legitimate rally that was derailed by the acts of a few violent extremists, and 12 percent aren’t sure.
Sixty percent of Minnesota voters surveyed said President Joe Biden was indeed the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election. Another 26 percent said he wasn’t, and 14 percent said they weren’t sure.
The fact that pollsters are even asking this question speaks volumes about the state of democracy to poll respondent Matthew Horton of St. Louis Park.
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“I never in my life would have thought that anyone in America would be answering a question: Did a president legitimately win or lose an election?” Horton, 41, said.
Horton was among 800 Minnesotans randomly selected from a list of registered voters and interviewed by landline and cellphone early last week for the Minnesota Poll sponsored by MPR News, the Star Tribune, KARE 11 and FRONTLINE. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Pollsters also asked whether former President Donald Trump incited his supporters to storm the Capitol.
Horton, who voted for Biden, agrees with the 46 percent who said it was an insurrection and the 51 percent who said Trump incited it.
“I feel very strongly that he allowed this to continue to happen and riled up the people there and just made a tinderbox that unfortunately lit into what we had on that day in our country,” Horton said.
Janet Olson, 77, of St. Paul, agreed.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that it was their intention to overthrow the election,” Olson said. “That was very well planned. They did their best to pull it off, but they lost. And I think they all belong in prison.”
Forty-one percent of those polled said they did not believe Trump incited his supporters, and 8 percent said they weren’t sure.
Views of the election and the events of Jan. 6 differ sharply by region and by party. Eighty percent of Democrats say Jan. 6 was an insurrection; just 7 percent of Republicans say that.
In Hennepin and Ramsey counties, more than three-fourths of respondents said Biden legitimately won office. In the Twin Cities suburbs and greater Minnesota, the figure barely cracks 50 percent.
“I certainly do not believe it was legitimate at all,” said Patricia Gilbert, 61, of Bemidji, who echoes Trump’s claims that fraudulent mail-in voting helped deliver Biden’s victory.
To be clear, there is no evidence to support that, and judges across the country have tossed out five dozen lawsuits backed by the former president and his allies alleging irregularities in swing states.
Gilbert is also among those polled who agreed that Jan. 6 was a legitimate protest that turned violent due to the actions of a small group of extremists.
“President Trump did not tell them to go riot at the Capitol,” Gilbert said. “He just wanted people to stand up for what they believed in. And they did not believe that the election was legit. It was not intended to be a riot.”
Curtis Borchert, 62, of Ada didn’t support Trump or Biden in November and won’t say for whom he voted, but he says Biden’s victory in November was legitimate. Like half of those polled in northern Minnesota, Borchert said Jan. 6 was not an insurrection.
Borchert said he bases his opinion on accounts from friends who were in Washington that day but who did not go inside the Capitol.
“They never heard anything when they were there about overthrowing the government, trying to overthrow the election, anything like that,” Borchert said. “And so I’m going by what they said. They were there, I wasn’t.”
Five Minnesotans alleged to have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 are facing federal charges. Two of the defendants — Victoria Charity White of Rochester, and Brian Christopher Mock of Minneapolis — have pleaded not guilty to felony counts.
Authorities say White was recorded on video trying to grab an officer’s shield. Mock is accused of shoving two Capitol officers to the ground and kicking one.
White remains free as her case moves forward. A judge has ordered Mock to remain in a Washington, D.C., jail.